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Friday, September 27, 2013

From The Beginning . . . .

Hey All --

Beginning our little Friday evening spiritual excursions.  A selection from Genesis -- the beginning.


Most of us who are of the Judeo-Christian persuasion have learned of the creation story contained in Genesis.  But I'd like to read into it a little bit deeper.

Chapter 1 details how the universe was created in six days.  That does beg the question -- if the solar system was only being formed, and the earth's rotation on its axis was a work-in-progress, exactly how long could each "day" have been?

Pretty easy . . . what was recorded as a "day" in Genesis could obviously have been a millennium . . . an epoch . . . an age of undetermined length, but finite nonetheless.  The first and second days could have been planetary formation, the third day could have been the ice age and the continents dividing, the fourth day could have been the formation of the atmosphere, and the fifth and sixth day could have been the ascendancy from the primordial soup.

Not exactly pinpointing the sequence of events, you understand, just offering a way to reconcile these ancient scriptures with what modern science has shown us.  Call it "intelligent design," call it what you will, I just would like to think that the miracle of life we regularly take for granted actually did not happen by accident or coincidence.


This is where all my agnostic friends start pointing fingers at western religious tradition, and say that it's all sexist and male-centered.  Oh nooooooo, it says Eve told Adam to take the apple, making her the bad guy, and making it her fault they got booted out into the world.  Sexist!  Prejudiced!  Ignorant!

Chill out, hippies.  Maybe it is sexist, but I'm seeing that from a much different angle than you are.

What if Adam, instead of passively taking the forbidden fruit, had said:  "Hold up, babes.  Even if what that snake said was true, that by eating this we'd actually be more aware of our surroundings, and not just happy and clueless, that thing swallowed a mouse whole, OK?  He's not a cool friend, he's a predator -- and he's making me uncomfortable in ways I can't describe.  I say we drop them apples, and grab some oranges and bananas from those other trees over there.  I'd rather listen to that big booming voice who told us that there's only one rule to follow, ever, than that thing that's wrapping itself around other animals and squeezing them until they pass out.  Really, babes, I'm not doing this."

Ain't that a concept right there -- saying no.  Standing your ground, not being pressured, and not being swayed.  No, this wasn't so much Eve's fault as it was Adam's.  He never actually felt the temptation from the snake, he just got docile and did what Eve told him to do, because he assumed that she knew better than he did.  Wrong, wrong, wrong on too many levels.  This did nothing but set the standard for generations of yes-dears and house-husbands to just do whatever "she" says to do, because she's the boss and we're just the clueless man-boys depicted in every family sitcom.  Shame.

Did the forbidden fruit give them thoughts and understanding that they previously lacked?  Sure . . . just like marijuana does now!  I've learned from those who partake that it enhances your understanding of the world, and unlocks your creativity.  But it also slows you down so badly that you can't think on your feet, and makes you want to raid White Castle in the worst way!  This fruit may have "opened their eyes," and allowed them to think, but it also got them booted out of a phat crib where they had everything provided for them with no cost or labor!  Hope it was a good high . . . .


And what happens to the next generation?  The other extreme.  They have two sons, and instead of one blindly following the other, one murders the other out of jealousy.  Was this an attempt to right a past wrong by swinging the pendulum hard the other way?  Could be.

G-D then waited for thousands of years, allowing further dysfunctional generations to pass before concluding that He just never should have started this whole project to begin with.  Could this have been the first instance of the Forgiving G-D, who then just got sick of being forgiving?  Very likely.

Clearly, the message is that we've been hopelessly flawed from the beginning, but G-D knew that already.  He must have understood that people were going to make mistakes, and he permitted it to continue.  And this is why Cain and Abel were not the perfect people that their parents couldn't be.  The first instance of that imperfection was a man's unwillingness to question what a woman tells him, even after hearing the opposite of that from G-D Himself.  The second was a man's willingness to deprive someone else of his very life, just out of jealousy.

We've gotten better since then, but we'll never be perfect.  We'll never be restored to the perfection and innocence of Eden, even if some of us are wealthy enough to live in comparable surroundings.  It's better simply accept the existence of our imperfections, learn from our mistakes, and just try to live the best lives we can by emphasizing our strengths and managing our weaknesses.  These friends from long ago obviously couldn't, but we can.

And that's my jam for now -- more to come this weekend, including the Bronx 10-Miler!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Always a Complaint

Complaining - it's just too damn easy.  Some people will look for and find reasons to bad mouth, malign, or whine over damn near everything.

Case and point, the fans of my beloved Islanders.  Last night, as a preseason exhibition, they played the Devils at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, which will be their new home beginning with the 2015-16 season.  How awesome, right?  A peek at the Isles' future home, an improvement over the "old barn," better known as Nassau Coliseum!  Super snazzy jazzy!

Or so we'd think...

What did people post/tweet about?  Oh, this place is no good.  Oh, I hated commuting on the LIRR to get there.  Oh, it's too small.  Oh, the line in the bathroom was too long.

Stop.  Just stop.  Please.

Here's the deal.

(1).  It was either this, or watch this franchise pack up the plantation and move to Kansas City.  Or Quebec.  Or somewhere in Suffolk County!  You guys prefer those options instead?

(2).  The place was constructed for basketball, and only basketball.  By the time SOMEBODY woke up and thought about moving the Islanders there, construction was completed.  If you wanted them to build a bigger arena for both teams, then you should've spoken up a LOT sooner.  Noah built the ark BEFORE it started raining, not when everyone started complaining about the weather, ya dig?

(3).  Dear voters of Nassau County:  who exactly told you to vote no, and why did you listen?  You could have not only kept the Isles on Hempstead Turnpike, but given them a renovated and remodeled Coliseum, and a whole sports complex around it that would have been an even greater attraction than Jones Beach and the East End combined!  

But you made your choice instead.  You knew full well that Wang would move the team if things didn't change, but you didn't care.  You still want to follow this team?  Then you'll just have to accept this arrangement as it is.

I mean, complaining about the train? More than half of you take it every morning at 7am to Penn Station - are you not used to it?  And you can't tell me you've never taken it for Rangers or Devils games. 

The moral of the story, friends & neighbors, is this:  sometimes consequences result from our actions or inactions.  When they do, we can (a) fix them, if it's possible to do so, or we can (b) just accept them, if there's nothing else we can do about them.  But we have NO RIGHT to complain about something that we caused or allowed to happen.  If Nassau County did not want to hold onto a team that represented it for 40+ years, then it cannot lament the perceived shortcomings of the resulting situation.

Whew!  Got fired up this time - maybe I should do Boomer & Carton once or twice, huh?  Just kidding, peeps.

By the way, congrats to everyone who ran the 5th Avenue Mile today.  Enjoy the Emmys!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

It's OK To Admit You Won

Hey all - doing it a little on the early side.

This weekend, I celebrated the Day of Atonement per my religion's traditions.  I fasted, which allowed me to contemplate my errors and omissions to seek forgiveness for them, while staying at my optimal buck-fifty weight.

Part of this holiday felt a bit lonely.  I'm one of those people who goes for the entire service, while a multitude of others arrive late, depart early, or just stay for "the important part."  Granted, the service lasts all day, with a 2 hour break, but that's the whole purpose of this holiday.  

I am not judging those who do this.  Some have small children or elderly relatives.  And some just don't choose to do it because it's way too long and boring.  Everyone's got circumstances we don't know about, and everyone's got opinions.  This is America, and nobody can force you to practice, or not practice, any religion.  So be it.

Aaaaand now that I've gotten the "Oh Squad" off my back, here's my point:

Deep down, I think that for every one of these folks who is decidedly apathetic or non committal, I win.  For every smart-ass agnostic who impugns his own traditions, I score.  And for everyone who complains about how much they hate being there, my loyalty grows tenfold.

It's really not so different from the positive reinforcement we runners share - even if you don't PR, you've beaten the loudmouth who sits on his bottom and never exercises.  Even if you didn't train properly for a race, you've beaten those who never trained.  And even if - G-D forbid - you had to walk part of that race, you've beaten those who didn't move.

So I'm patting myself on the back for my efforts, and congratulating those who did likewise.  Hopefully it gained me the forgiveness I sought, but I can't speak for Him who makes that call.

To be honest, the specific religion I practice is dying.  The need that prior generations once had for it is not there, and the enthusiasm that once sustained it has been redirected.  Membership in houses of worship continues to decline, and the institutions themselves either merge or close.

Until it happens, all I can do is keep whatever traditions I can, and incorporate them into my life the best I can.  That way, I'll feel no regrets when the doors finally close, except that I'll no longer have a race where I can place that highly.

So maybe I'll just have to fill that void with ... you'll see.  ;)

DISCLAIMER!  The above post was not intended to malign, besmirch, cast aspersions against, pass judgment on, or to devalue anyone who elects not to attend religious services, or elects to selectively attend them.  

Keeping this disclaimer in mind, feel free to comment.  With insight and maturity, I hope!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Know Your Audience and Their Likely Response

Hey All --

It's the mid-point of a three day weekend that unofficially concludes Summer 2013.  But it's still Sunday night, and you know what that means!

It is often said that one should never discuss religion or politics in polite society.  I respectfully disagree.  If we stifle ourselves the extent suggested by those inclined by politically correct, there's not that much conversation left.  Stifling the freedom of expression, whether by governmental edict (automatically unconstitutional, but save that for another post), by family-based guilt, or by fear of tripping the offense-o-meter that someone else has set too high, is neither brave, respectable, or admirable.  We were given voices, there's nothing wrong with using them.

That being said, those voices should only be used with the guidance and accuracy of the mind.  We don't just spew anything that we feel like shooting out there just for the sake of hearing our own voices.  We use them when we have logical, rational, and winning arguments, just like an attorney does at Court.

So how do we reconcile these two correct, but contradictory, truisms?  We know our audience.


Oh yeah, I'm going after these people again, after a while they're gonna lose their cool, detached veneer and be forced to start caring about a whole lot!

Often times, we'll introduce an issue that we feel so strongly about, so passionately about, something that comes from the very fiber of our being, only to be shushed, pooh-poohed, ignored, interrupted, or minimized by the unconcerned.

At this time, I have no winning strategy to use against this foe.  We can stand on our heads and give award-winning arguments until we're blue in the face.  They will have intentionally blocked all frequencies with shrugged shoulders, and converted our carefully-chosen vocabulary into the muffled-tuba sounds incorporated by Charlie Brown's teachers.  It is sad, it is frustrating, and it's more than a little rude.

Limit your contact with this crowd as much as possible.  Your message is better received by those who are more empathetic and open-minded.  Save it for them instead.  Trying to get through to these other folks is about as productive as punching a hole through a brick wall.  As I've said before, we do not live in a comic book, so instead of making your own doorway to the other side of that wall, you'll walk away with fractured metacarpals.

Getting angry at these folks, despite the above description, in the face of their obvious disinterest does not hurt them, it hurts you.  Whatever their reasons for their lack of response, it's not your fault, and it's also not a reason to hate them either.  There's no reason to make yourself crazy trying to get through to people who could care less about your message or you.  Go reach an audience that does appreciate your message, and you.


Sometimes, we get so caught up in sending our message, we don't bother to listen to the response.  This is also dangerous, because we may be going after someone who agrees with us when we assume that they're an adversary, or part of the WDC's.

You may think that they're not getting your message, and you may be sorrily mistaken.  Maybe they just want to add a riff to what you say.  Or maybe they just see it from a slightly different angle.  To use legal jargon, they "concur under separate grounds."

Give them the same courtesy they gave you.  They did not put up walls of apathy like the other crew did.  They listened.  They heard you loud and clear.  They found merit to your view, and empathize with your feelings.  Chances are, they may have thought of something that you didn't.

If this is true, then part of you may be so disappointed with yourself for not scooping up that biscuit first, that you're projecting your frustration on the one who did.  This is also a mistake.  Rather than attack them, enlist them.  And be happy they haven't yet made an enemy of you!


In other words, think before you speak, and edit before you write.  Pretend you're them, would you listen to you?

Is this the kind of statement you'd want people to remember you stating?  You can take it back, you can edit it, delete it, apologize for it, etc., but once it's out there, it's out there.  Even in this season of repentance and pardon, not everyone who hears you apologize will forgive you for wronging them.

Preparation:  Edit Yourself.  Is it something you'd want on your tombstone?  Something you'd want our callous and uncaring media to endlessly quote you as saying?  Is it the voice of your authentic and genuine self?  Is it exactly what you mean?  Will it bring consequences down on you or your loved ones?

If you don't have an unequivocal answer to any of the above, don't say or write it.  BEFORE IS BETTER.

Afterwards:  Forgive Yourself.  As I alluded to above, G-D is all-forgiving.  The rest of us aren't.  But even the angriest cries of offense, the strongest denouncements, and even the deserved consequences fade, you're still here.  You're human, you're flawed, and you're limited.  Nobody says the right thing at the right time all the time, no matter how much they think they do.  Not even I can do that!

But nobody, not the unforgiving or the WDC's, are interested in seeing you fall on your own sword.  Once you've made a brief and sincere apology, show's over.  Beating yourself up for your faults and foibles does not "reinforce" what you shouldn't do next time.  Instead, it does nothing but slightly expedite your eventual demise, and make your existence more painful than it ought to be.  File it away as a reference point, use it to improve your judgment, and keep on saying what you need to say.  Just let your conscience and your intellect, together with whatever mistakes you've made, serve as guideposts and boundaries in your future endeavors.

Yup, just a little something I needed to share with you, my audience.

As I mentioned on Facebook yesterday, the 10 Days of Awe will begin shortly.  This is the beginning of the lunar calendar used in Judaism, and it marks a season of repentance for sins committed against G-D, which are automatically forgiven and sins committed by everyone else against each other, which are not.

Those of you who are closest to me will be receiving direct messages in this regard, but since this season is upon us, I'd like to acknowledge to my audience that I haven't always said things in the best way they could be said, and I may have left someone with hurt feelings as a result.

For that, I apologize.  I can endeavor to avoid doing so in the coming year, but I still have messages to get out.  The best I can do is change the way they're presented so that they help, and not hurt; and that they resolve, and not aggravate.  I have many things to say, but I'm still only human.

This is not a guarantee that every single solitary thing I say from now on will be non-offensive to anyone and everyone.  But it is an admission that I've been wrong before, a notice that I'd like to make my peace with anyone who ever felt hurt by my statements, and a resolution that I will increase my efforts to state my messages the right way.

OK, now I'm done.  Any questions or comments, please message me directly.